Oranges, chilis, and pink boots

The Rath of the Clan refused to budge from the parking place that it had found at the restaurant where we had lunch. So we decided to spend the last bit of the daylight hour walking around Shillong’s Police Bazaar. This crowded market was full of people and turned out to be quite a cheerful place. My attention was, as always, drawn to the fresh produce rather than the cheap factory made clothes heaped on the stalls of the bazaar.

There are very few of the picturesque old buildings left here, in the prime commercial location in Shillong. Among the many unlovely concrete piles I found one of the last remnants of the old style buildings that a long-time Shillong resident told me is called “Assam style”. Niece Mbili is studying to be an architect, and I stood with her, lost in admiration for this once-beautiful structure made in wood and corrugated metal sheets. Wood is not sustainable building material any longer, but this looked like it would be a wonderful place if only someone took care of it.

I loved the tangle of wires overhead so much that I climbed above them to take a photo from above. You can see the haphazard concrete buildings which have replaced the Assam-style houses that must have once lined these roads. Photos from the 1940s, 50s and 60s show these low houses and very few people, at least to our modern eyes. Today the narrow roads are filled with fashionably dressed urban young, tribal and non-tribal, looking to pick up something inexpensive. From this vantage I spotted the Gupta Restaurant where I had a nice pre-dinner snack.

But back to oranges. I’d missed this wonderful corner with the winter’s oranges and kiwi, so this photo comes from The Family’s camera (this post has a mixture of photos from the two of us). A couple of years ago, I saw kiwi orchards in nearby Arunachal Pradesh, and thought that the fruit had been imported recently. But now that I know that the Kiwi originates in China, I guess it must have come to this part of the country fairly long ago. Everything on display in these stalls is local: kiwis, bananas and oranges, certainly, but also the beautiful cane baskets. The Family thought it was good I hadn’t noticed them, because I might have tried to bring some of them back with me as cabin baggage. Maybe. Maybe packed with oranges!

This lady did exactly that: packed one of those woven conical baskets with oranges. The large oranges in the basket were very sweet, but the smaller ones (slightly more green) had a better flavour. I didn’t try the apples. Don’t miss that heap of pink boots in the background. I’ve never seen so many pink boots together before. This must be special to Shillong.

You can tell The Family’s photos in this post by her concentration on the person rather than the produce. I’d passed the stall with the chilis but not paid much attention to the lady selling them. In retrospect, maybe I should have paid more attention to the people. Meghalaya has a mixture of ethnicities, and I could have learnt more about the state by looking and talking. At the very least I would have seen these pink jackets which go with those pink boots. Maybe I would have also taken a closer look at the loofahs behind her.

It was less than a week after the winter solstice, and the days were short. The light faded very quickly in Shillong at this time. The bazaar took on a very festive look with the fairy lights complementing lit up signboards. Our Rath driver (should he be called a charioteer?) had phoned in his decision to move, and we had to leave just when the evening’s crowds began to pour in.

Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

12 thoughts on “Oranges, chilis, and pink boots”

  1. The oranges in the basket look like oranges I ate in Guangzhou and I haven’t seen them in any store in the US and I don’t know what they’re called in English. Gam in Cantonese. Maybe they were tangerines, but if they were, the ones I’ve had in the US are not half as sweet or juicy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s my place of comfort! Police Bazar with all its crowd. A few years back it wasn’t this crowded though. How did you miss that lady in the corner? That corner is like on the face when you arrive at PB (that’s how we refer to Police Bazar locally in shillong). Did you buy any of those chillies? Those look like Bhoot Jolokiya or Naga Mirch- you would know them I am sure. I never saw so many of these together. Actually at different times different things dominate. When I was there a few months ago, it was chestnuts. BTW, did you notice the ‘loofas’ behind that lady who has the chillies spread out. The greenish oranges which you mention had more flavour are the local ones I guess.
    This reminds me, did you try chewing Kwai this time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a fan of kwai unfortunately. Yes, the loofas were the talk of the clan; we even went back to look at them. I wish I was there in chestnut season. But then we had chestnuts in China (that should be the title of a post).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Its difficult to be a Kwai fan unless you are used to it, its quite harsh on the mouth tissues. Will wait to read the chestnut post. And, next time I see in Shillong, will click a picture for you.

        Liked by 1 person

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